The Long View 2005-11-25: Defeatism, Exopolitics, Multicult, Gaudete

Douglas MacArthur was a war-monger. Admittedly, a fairly skilled one.


Defeatism, Exopolitics, Multicult, Gaudete

 

Anyone who is getting spooked by the defeatist talk about Iraq can take comfort, after a fashion, from the views that General MacArthur held in 1944 about the progress of the Second World War. Thanks to Medienkritik for these carping remarks:

“[MacArthur] said that every mistake that supposedly intelligent men could make has been made in this war. The North African operation was absolutely useless, yet all the available strength of Great Britain and the United States was thrown into the task.

The general, as he is depicted in the report, was full of two ideas: that the Pacific war had been “starved” in the interests of Europe, and that whereas the MacArthur-Nimitz strategy in the Pacific was skillfully to hit the enemy “where he ain’t,” the European strategy was to hammer stupidly against the enemy’s strongest points. “Patton’s army, which is trying to batter its way through the Vosges in the Luneville-Baccarat sector, can’t do it. He repeated---they can’t do it. No army could do it. … The Chinese situation is disastrous. It is the bitter fruit of our decision to concentrate our full strength against Germany. …He said that if he had been given just a portion of the force which invaded North Africa he could have retaken the Philippines in three months because at that time the Japanese were not ready.

The report goes on to expand on MacArthur's views: "He lashed out in a general indictment of Washington, asserting that ‘they’ are fighting this war as they fought the last war. He said that most of them have never been in the front lines and that they aren't rotating field officers back into Washington.”

The above is a direct quote from pages 17 and 18 of “The Forrestal Diaries” edited by Walter Millis and published by the Viking Press in 1951. James Forrestal was US Secretary of the Navy during the final year of World War II and learned of General Douglas MacArthur’s views through a report provided to him by Bert Andrews, the Washington correspondent for the New York Herald Tribune, who had just returned from a trip to the Philippines. The quotes appear in an entry dated 22 November 1944 (sixty-one years ago today).

For an intractable situation, the war in Iraq has actually gone rather better than we might reasonably have hoped. At the end of the invasion in 2003, Iraq was fish soup. Now it's an aquarium, though the fish are still sick. Today's public controversy is about ensuring that the Bush Administration does not get a nickel's worth of credit.

* * *

Meanwhile, in those parts of the planet that have so far escaped the grasp of the neocons, we see that progressive transnational opinion is dealing with the real issues that face the world today:

(PRWEB) - OTTAWA, CANADA (PRWEB) November 24, 2005 -- [Paul Hellyer, Canada’s Defence Minister from 1963-67] has joined forces with three Non-governmental organizations to ask the Parliament of Canada to hold public hearings on Exopolitics -- relations with “ETs....”

The proposed Decade of Contact is “a 10-year process of formal, funded public education, scientific research, educational curricula development and implementation, strategic planning, community activity, and public outreach concerning our terrestrial society’s full cultural, political, social, legal, and governmental communication and public interest diplomacy with advanced, ethical Off-Planet cultures now visiting Earth.”

Don't make fun. I'd lay any amount of money that UFO sightings are not caused by visiting extraterrestrials, ethical or otherwise, but it does give one pause to see how perfectly these stories match old mythological motifs. Most interesting of all is the counter-mythology that has appeared in opposition to the Hon. Hellyer's "Exopolitics." (For an intelligent exposition of this opposition, see the work of Charles Upton.)

By the way, note that expolitics is bound up with opposition to strategic missile defense:

Paul Hellyer, who now seeks Canadian Parliament hearings on relations with ETs, on May 15, 2003, stated in Toronto’s Globe & Mail newspaper, “Canada should accept the long-standing invitation of U.S. Congressman Dennis Kucinich of Ohio to launch a conference to seek approval of an international treaty to ban weapons in space. That would be a positive Canadian contribution toward a more peaceful world.”

It has always been my experience that stranger notions are to be found among progressive than among reactionaries. The difference is that, with the progressives, you have to ask.

* * *

The eccentricity of the progressive West is not lost on Joseph Thompson of the University of Alaska at Fairbanks, as we learn from his article in the Fall 2005 issue of Comparative Civilizations Review: Cultural relativism or Covert Universalism? The Metaethics of multiculturalism. (This is the journal of the International Society for the Comparative Study of Civilizations: I'm on the membership committee, so you please consider joining.)

The article admits what everybody knows: cultural relativism is incompatible with multiculturalism. The multiculturalism that we find in the academy has quite a lot of content, and that content is the worldview of the progressive West. The principle of cultural relativism is invoked to claim that this content is neutral. This pretence is unsustainable. This is the honest thing to do:

Against cultural relativism, but on behalf of genuine multiculturalism, I offer considerations for an explicitly affirmed universalist and (albeit one considerably reduced from traditional moral metaphysics). No longer “granted” transcendentally, not dependent upon theology or other high–level metaphysical propositions, the universality which can realistically sustain the globalization of human rights is derived from the declared international consensus of human beings. For my purposes it is less a matter of the specific rights in question, and more about the foundation upon which these rights may be said to derive their legitimacy. If this turns out to be nothing more than convention, well, it is also nothing less – a coming together. This is, in all likelihood, as much as we are going to get. And yet it’s appliances – provided that our effort is as inclusive, as widespread, and as truly multicultural as possible.

Quite so, but I must remark that pretty much all human societies claim some transcendent basis for their ethical principles. An honest universalism could not rest on an immanent metaphysics.

* * *

My knowledge of the transcendent has limits. I don't recall whether I had ever heard of Gaudete Sunday until about ten days ago. That's when some of the local Latin Mass crowd asked me to do a poster for a vespers service on Gaudete Sunday, which falls on December 11 this year.

I'd never been to a vespers service, so I was at a loss about graphics. I asked whether the service had anything to do with the sacrifice of small animals. I was ignored. Finally, I came up with this:

gaudetesunday.jpg

 

The scary thing was how much material about vespers, graphical and textual, that I found online. And why does Wikipedia know as much about it as the Catholic Encyclopedia?

Copyright © 2005 by John J. Reilly

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